Could you please tell me the most efficient and effective way to turn an area that is currently lawn, into a garden bed? I would like to minimize the grass and weed growth in the future, as much as possible. Also, I've heard that wood bark is a good mulch, but what about wood chips? Thanks for your help.
There are two generally accepted methods.
One is to kill the lawn in place, by capping it with something that will inhibit its growth, like plastic or newspaper (at least 7 sheets thick). The other is mechanical removal (using a spade or mechanical sod cutter)
There are pros and cons to each method. The "in place" method takes time (about 6-8 weeks), and we in America hate waiting for anything! The benefits are that weed seeds are generally killed off, unless you have nasty grass like rhizomal spreading Bermuda...You just have to wait longer. As a bonus, if using newspaper, you get soil-enriching compost in the process.
The mechanical removal method is the quickest, but the more expensive and labor-intensive route. The advantage is that it is "instant". Some like to "kill" the grass first, using a Round-Up like product. Read the label, and be cautious, as these chemicals stay in the soil for a while, doing what they do - kill plants - so your new bedding plants may not get off to a great start.
If the purpose is gardening for FOOD production, I would use the "in place" method, and raise the beds up for easier cultivation. Paul James, "The Garden Guy" had a good video demonstrating method, found here (from 2007 episode):
More vegetable garden preparation FYIs - 5 most asked questions:
PS: "Wood chips" and "bark mulch" are essentially different sizes of the same thing. They are both woody materials that are added to the top of the soil to keep it warm and moist, and inhibit weed growth. If you are using chips, make sure they have not come from trees that were pruned because of infestation or disease.
Hope it helps. ~M
PSS: Sorry for the delay. I forget to check my private e-mail while at work.